First of all, lets talk about why you should be actively focussing on building more branded search volume…
Google is changing. This is nothing new. Google hasn’t stopped changing since the day it was created but the recent difference is in the time, money, effort and progress that Google is now investing in understanding natural language and how conversational content online relates to individual brands. Google appear to be approaching the point of there being a step-change in how they understand brands and this will no doubt impact on the visibility of brands within organic search results.
What is Branded Search ?
This is pretty straight forwards. Branded search is any search term that someone enters as a Google Search that includes your brand name. An example of this could be simply the Brand Name itself…
Brand Name + Location…
Brand Name + Keyword (Product)…
What are the effects of increased Branded Search volumes ?
This is the good bit. All indications are that Google recognises there is link between a brand and the associated keyword within a search query, this can have a very positive effect across a range of keywords. There is also the recognition from Google that if people are searching for your brand name directly then there is an implied feeling of increased trust for your brand.
Higher conversion rate from the person searching
Conversion rates for branded search queries are significantly higher compared to site visits from non-branded search queries. The PPC industry have known this for a long time. It makes complete sense that someone who has specifically come looking for you is more likely to buy.
Can increase rankings for similar keywords without the brand associated
One big benefit of an increase in Brand Name + Keyword searches is that the visibility in organic search results for the related keywords without the brand association also increase. If these non-branded keywords increase in to the traffic-winning positions of search results then this also improves your brand reach and brand visibility levels.
Helps your site to rank for longer tailed search terms associated with the branded search terms
Along with an increase in head and mid-level search terms you can also see a major increase in related longer-tailed search terms. This effect can clearly be seen by using SEMRush to monitor all keywords ranking within the top 100 positions over the period of a Branded Search campaign.
Can influence Google Search Suggest
There have been a great many discussions, posts and conference talks around the topic of search suggest and how we can influence suggestions. Essentially Google wants to suggest potential search queries where it already knows that is can trust the credibility of the results that are displayed. It is well known that one of the main factors Google looks at when deciding what to suggest as a search query, are queries regularly entered by other people searching for similar terms. We already know that Google perceives branded search queries as a factor influencing trust signals, so these two positive factors combined can (and do) have an effect of search suggest and can increase the volume of organic visits to a site.
May mean that you appear in the ‘Related Searches’ feature
Similar to Google Search Suggest, the ‘Related Searches’ feature of google is a big sign that a brand is becoming increasingly visible on Google’s brand radar. The ‘Related Searches’ feature isn’t going to bring you the same level of site traffic increase that Search Suggest will but any increase is not to be sniffed at, and it also represents an opportunity for increase Brand Name visibility as people scroll down to click to the next page of results.
Can influence a user’s future search decisions and results based on search personalisation
This effect of an increase in branded search is very difficult to measure but is nonetheless very much real. Many (non-marketing type) people don’t realise that their Google search results are personalised dependant on their previous search patterns so if they have previously searched for your brand then they are more likely to use a branded search query again.
Another interesting effect is that even if someone doesn’t click on a Google Search Suggestion containing your brand name whilst they are entering a query, the fact that they have just seen your brand name within the suggestions means that they are more likely to click on your brand name if it appears on search results page.
The above are only a few of the effects of increased Branded Search volumes.
There are many more but hopefully I’ve illustrated enough of the benefits to convince you that focussing on you brand is more than worth your while.
So, to the main point…
How to Build More Branded Search Volume For Your Website
I’m going to cover some tactics for building branded search volume below but my main aim is to get you thinking along the right lines, so that you are able to take opportunities within your current activities and the processes that you already employ, to run your business. Anything that you do to increase the visibility, understanding or trust of your brand in a positive way will have an effect.
There is no particular order or priority to these recommendations. Everyone has different skills, strengths and budgets and the actions that you take need to be realistic for your situation.
Paid social advertising to increase brand awareness
This is one of the most targeted approaches that you can take to increase brand reach and build brand awareness directly to the people who are most likely to buy your products or services. Social advertising is very effective and if is something that you haven’t tried, then you may be surprised at how cost effective it is compared to most other marketing channels.
I would always recommend starting to advertise to your existing audience then increase the breadth of your advertising to include people who don’t know your brand. Start small and then increase in stages so that you don’t blow all of your budget too early. This also give you the added benefit of directly increasing sales as you go and if you do it right, then you may be able to cover all of your short-term advertising costs and more.
- Advertise your brand to existing customers (group A) to promote reengagement
- Advertise to people that have visited your site who have experienced your brand before (group B) to reintroduce your brand
- Create lookalike audiences based on Group A and introduce these in to the campaign
- Create lookalike audiences based on Group B and introduce these in to the campaign
- Create audiences based on targeted demographics and introduce these in to the campaign
Respond to and actively engage with people who mention your brand
People like to be listened to. Engaging with people is the best way to form a connection and to start building brand loyalty. The obvious channel for this is social but don’t be limited to just social.
Don’t shy away from people who are saying bad things about your brand, talking to them is the best way of changing their minds. These types of conversations are often public so you also have the opportunity to form the first impressions of your brand that other people have.
If someone’s negative comments about your brand are valid then don’t get defensive or start an argument, treat it as an opportunity to learn and improve your offering.
Contribute thoughts, ideas & content on other sites
Just to be clear, we aren’t talking about an old-school guest blog posting campaign here and don’t treat this as a link building exercise.
If you are going to contribute content to another site then research the site first to ensure it gets a reasonable volume of traffic, that the traffic/audience is relevant to your product/service offering and that the site your are posting content on aligns with your brand values and ethos.
Social media groups and forums are a really good opportunity to help people by answering questions and providing advice. If you are intending to try this approach then you should never try to directly sell your brand via these channels, you should be genuine in wanting to help people.
We have used forums ourselves as a very successful route to gaining new clients. We will often scour multiple forums around a given niche to identify common challenges and question being asked. We will then create a blog post answering those questions and then post the link in to the forums as a resource to help people with the same (or similar) issue.
Often, it doesn’t require much effort to contribute in a way that helps someone. It can just be a quote from you or a nugget of advice that makes someone else’s life easier. All of these moments help to build your brand bit-by-bit.
The overall takeaway for contributing is that what you say or do should add value and demonstrate your expertise.
Advertise offline (Yes Offline!)
This may seem completely alien to many digital marketers for whom the real life world exists for most things except communication (unless you’re talking on the phone).
Advertising works, it has been used for literally thousands of years to make people aware of products, services and brands. The extent of any advertising should relate directly to the size, coverage and scaleability of your business.
for small businesses…
If you are a local business based in The South-West with no interest in servicing customers in the North-East then only advertise in the area where you want to gain customers or that you can realistically service. There is nothing more frustrating to a sales person than getting a pile of leads from customer who they can’t service.
There are many ways that small businesses can advertise (or gain more visibility) and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune a to do it.
Low-cost newspaper ads. All local areas will have free papers and at least one local newspaper, advertising your products/services in these publications can be very low cost. This approach isn’t a case of placing a single ad and then waiting for the customers to start queuing up at your door. You should look at a longer term plan (maybe committing to repeat ads over a period of time could reduce the cost per ad) and spread your ads over multiple local publications to gain a broader exposure. Don’t just go for the cheapest option, go for the publication that will be suit your target customer.
Free local PR. Keeping on the topic of local newspapers… These types of publication are always on the lookout for interesting stories, so why not pitch them your story. This can be anything from a story about why you started the business, a 5-year, 10-year, 15-year, etc anniversary of the business or a new product/service that will secure the future of the business. Local newspapers love small businesses who are growing and employing more local people. If you have just hired someone new then let you local newspaper know about it. You have nothing to lose.
Media giveaways. Local press and radio are always on the lookout for prizes to give away that don’t cost them anything. This approach doesn’t suit every small business but if you offer any kind of product from fresh meat to a night in a hotel then getting in touch and offering a prize for brand mentions is definitely worth pursuing.
Networking. Love it or hate it. It works. Networking will effectively grow your brand locally and help you to build business connections that will result in greater brand visibility. Most local areas have several business networking groups, not all of them are as worth while as others. There will undoubtedly be a local networking group that actively focusses on referrals and generating business leads for each other. This type of group can seem quite regimented, they often lack the social, easy-going feel of other groups and they certainly aren’t are fun but they more often than not produce the best results. Remember, you aren’t there for breakfast and a chin-wag, you’re there to grow your brand!
Trade association publications. Almost all industries have an association and with this often comes a trade publication. Similar to local press, these publications need stories. Any kind of story that is interesting, shows thought leadership, is controversial or just downright funny may be be of interest to them.
Free educational workshops. Business owners often possess years of experience coupled with many skills that can be of great value to others such as young people wanting to get a job or other businesses wanting to learn new skills. Running a free educational workshop can help to grow your brand on many levels. It places you as a source of authority for your industry in your local area, it forms relationships with people of may come to respect you and become brand advocates for you and there’s the added benefit that it creates a goodwill story likely to be covered by your local press.
Leaflet drops and direct mail. This approach is almost always overlooked by most businesses as a viable option to building a brand locally. Many small businesses will invest money in hiring someone to promote them locally on social media and completely ignore the fact that some of their potential customers are likely to be within a stones-throw of their office. Compared to someones wages, leaflet printing is cheap, so is paying a student to drop one of them off at most houses and business premises in your local area. Offers and discounts are the usual reason for a direct mail or leaflet drop so remember to make that deal attractive enough that people look at the leaflet long enough to see your brand.
Do these small business advertising and brand building ideas sound a bit like old-school marketing? That’s because they are. This is how many small brands started to grow and become the big brands that we know today.
for big businesses…
I’m not going to cover advertising tactics for big businesses in-depth here, this is an expansive topic on it’s own with a great many resources available. There is also the consideration that bigger businesses are most likely to have a dedicated person or team devoted to advertising and as a digital marketer you are unlikely to be able to wade in and start effecting broad changes. What I would say though is that it can be very helpful to make friends with stakeholders within other business departments (such as advertising) and to talk about sharing common objectives.
There is of course a broad range of companies who sit somewhere in between the small business and the big business. It doesn’t actually matter what size your business is, the goal of increasing brand visibility remains the same and the majority of the small business tactics are applicable they just need a different scale attached to them. Local press advertising becomes national press advertising. Attending a networking event becomes hosting a networking event.
Reward people for recommending you to others
Getting other people to do the job of increasing your brand reach is a no brainer. This can work for so many businesses but so many businesses don’t do it. Simply offer a discount or a giveaway to loyal customers who send your other customers. We’re not talking a full-blown affiliate campaign or anything close to it, just real people telling their friends and family about your business to get a reward. The most effective of these type of campaigns are the ones where both the existing customer and the new customer get some kind of reward or discount.
Sponsor an event
This tactic isn’t for the faint-hearted. It can often involve a lot of stress and a lot of money but if you chose your event well and negotiate on exactly what visibility you get then you can find your brand instantly in front of your ideal target customer. If you start making enquiries around this area then be prepared to be hounded by repeat calls from event promoters trying to sell you a package.
If there are people speaking at an event then there is often a lot of brand building opportunity in getting a speaker to endorse your business or product within their talk. This could save you a lot of money in sponsorship fees and maybe only cost you a pint of beer or a dinner.
There are many, many more tactics you can employ but they all come down to the same thing. Promoting your brand to a wider audience in a positive way with the aim of increasing branded search queries.
I have saved this next tactic until last as it probably epitomises the most direct approach possible…
Just tell people to search for your Brand Name + Keyword!
I’m sure that you may have heard the cheesy jingle on the radio with the (often dodgy) voice over artist extolling the virtues of a product. At the end of the jingle instead of someone giving you the website address they just tell you to search for something like
“Warmview Double Glazing”
For me this is absolute genius.